Conditional sentence (“house arrest”)

A conditional sentence is an imprisonment (jail) sentence, except that the offender serves the sentence outside of jail, under strict, jail‑like conditions.

Conditional sentences are sometimes called “house arrest,” because they often require an offender to spend all or part of the sentence in their house. Just like imprisonment, a conditional sentence will result in a conviction being registered against the offender.

To give an offender a conditional sentence, the judge first imposes a sentence of imprisonment and then considers whether to let the offender serve the sentence outside of jail.

There are restrictions on when a judge can impose a conditional sentence. A judge can only impose a conditional sentence if:

  • the sentence of imprisonment is less than two years;
  • the offender has not been convicted of a criminal offence that requires a minimum amount of jail time;
  • the offender has not been convicted of a serious personal injury offence, a terrorism offence, or a criminal organization offence prosecuted by way of indictment for which the maximum term of imprisonment is ten years or more;
  • the judge is satisfied that letting the offender serve the sentence in the community would not threaten the safety of the community;
  • the judge is satisfied that having the offender serve the sentence in the community is consistent with the sentencing principles of the Criminal Code.

Conditional sentences have mandatory conditions, and they usually also have restrictions that make it like a jail sentence. House arrest is often part of a conditional sentence; at least for part of the sentence. House arrest usually means that the offender must stay in their home at all times (or during certain hours) unless they are working, attending school or religious worship, or for medical appointments or emergencies. Other conditions attached may be similar to those of a probation order. It is also common for a probation order to follow a conditional sentence.

A conditional sentence is supervised by a conditional sentence supervisor (who is actually a probation officer.) Every conditional sentence requires the offender to report to the conditional sentence supervisor at least once. On many conditional sentences, the offender has to report several times.

If an offender allegedly breaks one or more of the conditions of a conditional sentence, there may be a hearing held in front of a judge. If the judge is convinced that the offender broke one or more of the conditions without a lawful or reasonable excuse, the judge may make the offender serve the remaining time in jail.